Portugal : A World of Difference

What’s old is new again. Portuguese table wines have been enjoying a renaissance of sorts, with the category experiencing healthy growth in our province, buoyed by the influx of dry red wines flowing into our market. Consumers, on the hunt for new regions, grapes and flavours, have embraced the diversity of Portuguese wines and terroir. Suddenly Dao and Bairrada are hot places on the map, and Alvarinho and Trajadura prized grapes. Our coastal and locavore based cuisine mirrors theirs, and naturally our love for undervalued and overachieving wines has poised Portugal for success in our market.

Perhaps we’re a bit slow to catch on; Portugal has a millenary tradition (2000 BC) in the wine making process and has the oldest demarcated and regulated wine region in the world in the Douro Wine Region, legendary the world over for its fortified wines.  The population of Portugal is roughly that of BC – approximately 10.5 million people – but though a small country, the output is mighty and the total vineyard area is considerable. Portugal’s proportion of vineyard area to the total utilized agricultural area is one of the highest in the world and in 2011 they ranked 11th in world for wine production and 10th in wine exports.


The same factor that has prevented Portuguese wines from becoming household norms is now the key to their current successes. Portugal has more varieties per hectare in the world and the quality and range of its native varieties (about 250!) enable vintners to make a wide diversity of wines with distinct personalities. In addition, the isolated slip of a country contains approximately 200 microclimates all together, making it one of the countries in the world with the largest number of microclimates per square meter.

Let’s do the math. 250 unique grapes + 200 microclimates + 2000 years of making wine = wines you should know about. Thankfully for us, BC buyers are on it and the options are greater for us than ever before. It’s an exciting, amazing wine world out there and I strongly urge people to experience as much of it as you can. Here are a few worthy Portuguese wines to expand your world.



Moon Curser Vineyards
Touriga Nacional
Okanagan Valley, BC
*$39  +30841

Taking Portugal’s king of the Douro, Touriga Nacional, and transplanting it in Osoyoos is a bold move, but really, what else would you expect from the Moon Curser family? This intensely fragrant, highly tannic and low-yielding grape seems to be adapting to the southern Okanagan’s desert-like conditions just fine. Addictive savoury cured meats and cassis on the nose lead to a massive palate of juicy black cherry, herbed cassis and big spice. Massive tannins here, as expected, so prepare the grill today or prepare to lay it down for a few years. 89 points.


Cellar DwellerQuinta-do-Crasto-2011-copy

Quinta do Crasto
Tinto 2011
Douro DOC, Portugal
$19.99  +499764

Quinta do Crasto is one of the finest estates for red wine in the Douro, and arguably, the entire country. This historic property was first mentioned in 1615, and today, under the Roquette family, continues the property’s regal tradition through a range of high quality, single quinta (estate) Port and Douro wines. This is their ‘entry level’ wine, a highly promising sign indicative of the aims of the house. Their 2 cult wines, Vinha da Ponte and Vinha Marie-Teresa are made from 70-100+ year old vines. This dark stunner is from 20+ year old Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional vines that scale the steep schist slopes of the Douro. 95% is aged in stainless steel with the remainder resting in French oak for a year. Deep in hue and intensity, this is pure and ripe black fruit, violets, rasped graphite and stone. Structured and precise, the tannins are finely textured and the balance complete, confident and refined. Drinking well now, this will hold and improve for the next 10 years. 91 points.



Vinho Verde Rosé
Vinho Verde DOC, Portugal
$10.99  +678813

Easy, breezy, off dry and pink. What else could you ask for in a $10 patio wine? This juicy, lively rose is strawberry in hue and aroma, along with candied strawberries and youthful raspberries. A slight fizz elevates the refreshment factor. A blend of Espadeiro, Amaral, Borraçal and Vinhão brings the local flavour of northern Portugal to the glass. 85 points.


Luis Pato
Vinhas Velhas Branco 2012
Beiras VR, Portugal
$25.99  +403881

Not that these all aren’t an adventure, but a blend of white grapes Becal, Cerceal and Sercialinho are rare enough (here) to get any wine geek excited. Luis Pato’s family has been producing wine since the 18th century, and his father, Joâo was the first to bottle wine in Bairrada DOC after it was officially demarcated as an appellation. Together with his father, Luis is credited with bringing Bairrada back to life. Though the Pato name (translating as duck) is synonymous with Bairrada, this brand new-to-BC-wine is sourced from the neighbouring Beiras region. Unoaked and raised in stainless steel, this bright trio of grapes highlight their pure-fruited nature and chalky clay soils well. Herbal, white grapefruit and lemon on the nose carry to a creamy, light lees texture with white peach and tight pear, quince, wild honey, mild nuts and a perfumed elderflower. Beauty freshness and energy. 90 points.


No Wineosbiere-super-bock-25cl

Super Bock
$12.69 for  6 x 330ml  +112532

Super Bock is one of the most popular beers in Portugal, sold in approximately 90% of all restaurants and markets in the country. The fervent popularity is possibly due to its cult following amongst Portuguese football fans (the type that put the fanatic in fan). Their fondness for “Bock” has even developed a chant “Super Bock, superstar, gets you more pissed than Stella Artois”.

Footie aside, the strong, pale lager has a very long and strong tradition in the country. Super Bock clocks in at 5.4% and is made by the Unicer brewery, established in 1927, just outside of Porto.


Treve in her element, teaching a class on portgugal

Treve in her element, teaching a class on Portuguese table wines

Each week Treve highlights 5 timely and tasty picks. Her weekly choices include Locavore (BC wines), Cellar Dweller (wines to lay down for a while for maximum enjoyment), Budgeteer (wallet-friendly bottles under $15), Adventurer (wines for geeks, enlightening or pushing the envelope) and No Wineos (a non-wine pro-alcoholic beverage). So what are you waiting for? DRINK This!


DRINKing Guide: How to use our purchasing information.
*Asterisks denote wines that are only available at the winery or select private liquor stores. All other wines are available through BC Liquor Stores. The price is suggested retail price, and may fluctuate depending on source. Wines are scored out of 100 points.

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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